A group of young Basotho recently braced the chilly weather conditions and met to raise awareness, share insights, and find solutions to problems that continue to affect the youth regarding mental health, bad financial habits, drug, and substance abuse.
Hosted by Mind Matters Lesotho, a youth-led organisation established by Reatile Polaki, Sello Makutle, Thakane Ramosoeu, and Kemong Mahasa with the aim of “bringing awareness and solutions to socio-economic problems faced by the youth of Lesotho,” the one-day retreat was held at Scripture Union in Maseru.
Giving his welcoming remarks, Mahasa stated that they formed the organisation upon realising that, as young they do not have spaces where they can come together on issues that affect them without the presence of adults.
“It was against this background that we sat down and discussed what is the major problem affecting the youth of Lesotho- mental health and thought that establishing a forum to discuss these issues would be the best solution,” Mahasa said.
Ramosoeu, who is a trained social worker, explained that mental health relates to how individuals think and act towards certain factors that happen around them.
One of the keynote speakers and economist, Makutle indicated that “lack of financial literacy is one of the key challenges that lead to many young people having mental health problems and, in the end, contribute to drug and substance abuse.
“We are hoping that through Green Minds, the youth of Lesotho can use it as an outlet to have honest conversations about our problems and then find solutions together not individually.”
Breaking the Stigma: A Mental Health Survivor’s Story
Even though there is still a stigma associated with mental illness, many young individuals like Relebohile Kabelo are realising how crucial it is to get treatment.
In a moving tone, that left most of the attendees in silence, Kabelo (23) a mental health survivor shared details of how he faced problems with his mental health and had to be admitted at Mohlomi, Lesotho’s only referral psychiatric hospital in 2018.
“In 2018, I use to see and hear things that other people could not see or hear and speak to people like they were next to me, yet they were not there. I felt connected to people in a way that I felt like I had superpowers,” he said.
He further highlighted that growing up as a child, he faced several challenges which included being called different derogatory names “and I believe this is one of the causes to my mental health deteriorating as it impacted me heavily.”
The smart Kabelo who is famous on social media for always sharing financial tips passionately, stated that despite Mohlomi Hospital being referred to as a place of “crazy people.”
He has different views about it because “if I had resisted being assisted at Mohlomi, I would probably not be standing before you today, I, therefore, urge all young people who are facing other mental health problems to visit the place because it helps.”
Youth Leading the Way
According to research conducted in 2016, under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Vigo of the Harvard School of Public Health and funded by Partners in Health, “one in five of Lesotho’s 2.2 million citizens experience mental illness. That is the country where Partners in Health operates where the rate of mental illness is the highest.” With young people like Polaki, Makutle, Ramosoeu, and Mahasa taking the first step in the fight against mental health diseases, more effective therapies and increased knowledge of mental diseases could significantly decrease the problem in Lesotho